Solitaire is one of the most pleasurable pastimes for one person. Often called, "Patience," more than 150 Solitaire games have been devised.

How to play: Solitaire

Many Solitaire games can be played on areas smaller than a card table. Others require a larger playing area, and these games are often played on the floor or on a bedspread. Alternatively, in order to play with large layouts on a card table, miniature playing cards are available. These are usually half the size of standard playing cards.

The Pack

Virtually all Solitaire games are played with one or more standard 52-card packs. Standard Solitaire uses one 52-card pack.

Object of the Game

The first objective is to release and play into position certain cards to build up each foundation, in sequence and in suit, from the ace through the king. The ultimate objective is to build the whole pack onto the foundations, and if that can be done, the Solitaire game is won.

Rank of Cards

The rank of cards in Solitaire games is: K (high), Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, A (low).

The Deal

There are four different types of piles in Solitaire:

  1. The Tableau: Seven piles that make up the main table.
  2. The Foundations: Four piles on which a whole suit or sequence must be built up. In most Solitaire games, the four aces are the bottom card or base of the foundations. The foundation piles are hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs.
  3. The Stock (or “Hand”) Pile: If the entire pack is not laid out in a tableau at the beginning of a game, the remaining cards form the stock pile from which additional cards are brought into play according to the rules.
  4. The Talon (or “Waste”) Pile: Cards from the stock pile that have no place in the tableau or on foundations are laid face up in the waste pile.

To form the tableau, seven piles need to be created. Starting from left to right, place the first card face up to make the first pile, deal one card face down for the next six piles. Starting again from left to right, place one card face up on the second pile and deal one card face down on piles three through seven. Starting again from left to right, place one card face up on the third pile and deal one card face down on piles four through seven. Continue this pattern until pile seven has one card facing up on top of a pile of six cards facing down.

The remaining cards form the stock (or “hand”) pile and are placed above the tableau.

When starting out, the foundations and waste pile do not have any cards.

The Play

The initial array may be changed by "building" - transferring cards among the face-up cards in the tableau. Certain cards of the tableau can be played at once, while others may not be played until certain blocking cards are removed. For example, of the seven cards facing up in the tableau, if one is a nine and another is a ten, you may transfer the nine to on top of the ten to begin building that pile in sequence. Since you have moved the nine from one of the seven piles, you have now unblocked a face down card; this card can be turned over and now is in play.

As you transfer cards in the tableau and begin building sequences, if you uncover an ace, the ace should be placed in one of the foundation piles. The foundations get built by suit and in sequence from ace to king.

Continue to transfer cards on top of each other in the tableau in sequence. If you can’t move any more face up cards, you can utilize the stock pile by flipping over the first card. This card can be played in the foundations or tableau. If you cannot play the card in the tableau or the foundations piles, move the card to the waste pile and turn over another card in the stock pile.

If a vacancy in the tableau is created by the removal of cards elsewhere it is called a “space”, and it is of major importance in manipulating the tableau. If a space is created, it can only be filled in with a king. Filling a space with a king could potentially unblock one of the face down cards in another pile in the tableau.

Continue to transfer cards in the tableau and bring cards into play from the stock pile until all the cards are built in suit sequences in the foundation piles to win!

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  • So, I’ve often seen solitaire played so that the Tableau has an alternaiting Black to red to Black color co-oridiation. Is this how it is played or no?

    • The Bicycle Team
      June 7, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Hi Simon,

      There are several different variations on how to play solitaire – that is one version of how to play. The traditional way isn’t played that way.

      – The Bicycle Team

  • In some games, you can’t win no matter what.

  • May I every move cards from the tableau to the stock pile?

    • The Bicycle Team
      April 26, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Hi Andrea,

      No, you shouldn’t move cards from the tableau to the stock pile. The stock pile should be used to add cards to the tableau to build the sequences and build up the foundation piles.

  • I see you reference moving a card from the stock pile to either tableau or foundation, but at what point may you move cards from the tableau to a foundation pile? For example, if I have an Ace of hearts face up on tableau, and a 2 of hearts up, can I move that 2 to the A once it starts the foundation pile for hearts?

    • The Bicycle Team
      April 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Derrick,

      As soon as you turn over a card in the tableau, you can move it to the foundation piles. The foundation piles start with the Aces. So you would move the Ace of hearts to the foundation pile and then you can also move the 2 of hearts to the foundation pile. You continue to build, three of hearts, four of hearts, five of hearts, etc.

      – The Bicycle Team

  • While playing Canfield I learned a thing called shifting, and I want to know how acceptable it is. If you cannot play but still have stock, shifting is putting the top stock card on the bottom before going through the stock again, (in sets of 3 as in Canfield).

    • The Bicycle Team
      March 22, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Shifting is not part of the official rules, but we have heard of this variation before. There are many games that develop house rules or family rules and games get many variations on exactly how they are played. Try it out! Does it benefit you more or make it any easier?

      – The Bicycle Team

  • In the rules, I do not see if you play one card at a time or pick up 3 cards at a time. What is the official way and what are the benefits of each?

    • Hi Zelda,

      There are many different ways to play solitaire. There is a version called Klondike that flips only one card from the stock pile and only goes through the stock once and then the game is over. Klondike is probably the most widely known solitaire game and it is sometimes called Canfield, however, Canfield is a completely different version. The Canfield version flips three cards and you can go through the stock as many times as you want. Some other solitaire games are pounce, accordion, and spider solitaire. It all depends how quickly you want to go through the game and the level of difficult you prefer.

      – The Bicycle Team

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